Hayes v. Public Defender of the State of Delaware et al
MEMORANDUM - Signed by Judge Gregory M. Sleet on 11/15/12. (rwc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELA WARE
JAMES F. HAYES, JR.,
PUBLIC DEFENDER OF THE STATE
OF DELAWARE, et aI.,
) Civ. Action No. 12-1082-GMS
The plaintiff, James F. Hayes, Jr. ("Hayes"), a detainee at the Howard R. Young
Correctional Institution, Wilmington, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 1 (D.I. 3.)
He appears pro se and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915. (D.I. 5.) The court now proceeds to review and screen the complaint pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A.
Hayes has been incarcerated since February 20, 2012 and has yet to be indicted. While a
motion for bail reduction was filed by defense counsel, the prosecution has taken no action. On
July 2, 2012, the State Court judge admonished both sides to take immediate action. (D.I. 3.)
Hayes' recent letter, dated October 8, 2012, indicates that he still has not been indicted. (See D.I.
7.) Named as defendants are the State of Delaware, the Public Defender of the State of
Delaware, Assistant Public Defender Ferris Wharton, and the Attorney General of the State of
Delaware. Hayes seeks compensation for his wrongful incarceration.
lPursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that some person has deprived him
of a federal right, and that the person who caused the deprivation acted under color of state law.
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
This court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma pauperis and
prisoner actions that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (informa pauperis
actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental
defendant); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (prisoner actions brought with respect to prison conditions). The
court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most
favorable to a pro se plaintiff. Phillips v. County ofAllegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008);
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,93 (2007). Because Hayes proceeds pro se, his pleading is
liberally construed and his complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94
An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and § 1915A(b)(1), a
court may dismiss a complaint as frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal
theory" or a "clearly baseless" or "fantastic or delusional" factual scenario. Neitzke, 490 at 327
28; Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989); see, e.g., Deutsch v. United States, 67
F.3d 1080, 1091-92 (3d Cir. 1995) (holding frivolous a suit alleging that prison officials took an
inmate's pen and refused to give it back).
The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and § 1915A(b)(I) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on
12(b)(6) motions. Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236,240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)).
However, before dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, the court
must grant Hayes leave to amend his complaint unless amendment would be inequitable or futile.
See Grayson v. Mayview State Hasp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002).
A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544
(2007). The assumption of truth is inapplicable to legal conclusions or to "[t]hreadbare recitals
of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements." Id. at 1949.
When determining whether dismissal is appropriate, the court conducts a two-part analysis.
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the factual and legal
elements of a claim are separated. Id. The court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded
facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Id. at 210-11. Second, the court must
determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that Hayes has a
"plausible claim for relief.,,2 Id. at 211. In other words, the complaint must do more than allege
Hayes's entitlement to relief; rather it must "show" such an entitlement with its facts. Id.
"[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than a mere possibility of
2A claim is facially plausible when its factual content allows the court to draw a
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at
1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). The plausibility standard "asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. "Where a complaint pleads facts that are
'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and
plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'" Id.
misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not shown - that the pleader is entitled to
relief." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)).
A. Eleventh Amendment Immunity
Hayes' claim against the State of Delaware is barred by the State's Eleventh Amendment
immunity. See MCI Telecom. Corp. v. Bell Atl. ofPa., 271 F.3d 491, 503 (3d Cir. 2001). The
Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution protects an unconsenting state or state
agency from a suit brought in federal court by one of its own citizens, regardless of the relief
sought. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89 (1984); Edelman v.
Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974).
The State has not waived its immunity from suit in federal court, and although Congress
can abrogate a state's sovereign immunity, it did not do so through the enactment of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Brooks-McCollum v. Delaware, 213 F. App'x 92,94 (3d Cir. 2007) (citations omitted).
Hayes' claim against the State has no arguable basis in law or in fact. It is frivolous and will be
dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b)(I).
B. Public Defender
The Public Defender of the State of Delaware and Assistant Public Defender Wharton
Hayes are named as defendants. Public defenders do not act under color of state law when
performing a lawyer's traditional functions as counsel to a defendant in criminal proceedings.
Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981). Because these defendants are not state actors, the
§ 1983 claim against them the claims against fail as a matter of law. Therefore, the claims
against the Public Defender of the State of Delaware and Assistant Public Defender Wharton will
be dismissed as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915(A)(b)(1).
For the above reasons, the court will dismiss the claims against the State of Delaware, the
Public Defender of the State of Delaware, and Assistant Public Defender Wharton as frivolous
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915(A)(b)(1). Hayes will be allowed to proceed
against the Attorney General of the State of Delaware?
An appropriate order will be entered.
rv_/)_"'--.l_~_ _, 2012
3At this juncture, it is not clear from the pleadings if the Attorney General of the State of
Delaware has prosecutorial immunity or qualified immunity. See e.g., Schneyder v. Smith, 653
F .3d 313 (3d Cir. 2011). Therefore, liberally construing the allegations, as the court must, the
claims against him will proceed.
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